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writing for godot


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Saturday, 06 April 2019 20:52


-Their governments keep laws on their books that they have no intention of obeying and are wholly reluctant to abandon.  (Franz Kafka)


1. What is new is the frequency with which these politicians are getting into power and, too often, this means that everything can be bought and sold; corruption has become endemic.


2. You see? Democracies also die …even democratically… All along the last century, the idea took shape that democracies only collapsed through a brisk, and almost always violent, interruption of constitutional legality through military (or civilian led) coups with the objective/purpose of installing/imposing a dictatorship. This narrative was, to a great extent, true. It no longer is. The anti-democratic political forces slowly infiltrate the democratic regime, capturing it in a more-or-less veiled, disguised gradual manner staying within legality and within the constitution. This, until the moment when the prevailing political system --not yet having lost formal democracy-- is actually emptied of its democratic (and human rights) tenets. (Boaventura de Sousa Santos)


You are aware: People do not necessarily vote in their self-interest (or their human rights interests)

-Whole peoples live being constantly cheated by candidates they vote-for who give them false promises, who bribe or coerce them to vote.

3. Let us be realistic: In general elections, people vote their identity; they vote their values; they vote for whom they identify with. (Vivian Giang) [Will there be a day when candidates’ human rights (HR) track-record comes into voters voting decision-making equation…?].


4. And when people are called to vote on referenda, they are called because these are considered a compelling tool to engage the general public when it has lost faith in the ability of political institutions to uphold what is a broken social contract. It is little wonder, then, that referenda have seen a resurgence… (Reva Goujon)

We all know those politicians that never attempt to really go to the bottom of what is happening (Ortega y Gasset)

-Ergo, if you do not want a populist politician to be politically unhappy, do not worry him showing him two aspects of the same issue; show him only one. (Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451)


5. To establish their innocence, many politicians can and do cleverly appeal to the subjective argument that ‘what is untrue for some can be true for others’. Such a subjectivism has, more often than what we want, helped institutionalize cheating for political gain. (Donald de Raadt)


6. Not being able to deny the above, this whole business is the inevitable consequence of the ‘necessary politics’ populist politicians play. They walk through the world like chameleons, never truly revealing themselves, never appearing not-to-commit thus always emerging through chaos unscathed. (Think Trump or Erdowan or Bolsonaro) Trapped inside their own history, they are unable to retrace their steps and fall into contradictions, because their footprints have been carefully swept away. (Arundhati Roy, The God of Small Things)


It is liberal ideology that made the modern world we live-in, but the modern world (and human rights activists) is (are) turning against it (The Economist at 175, Sept. 2018)


-There has been growing acceptance of the individualistic ideology that we are responsible for the decisions we make, whether explicit or implicit, or do not make. (Jomo Sundaram)


7. These days, liberal elites are seen as self-serving and unable, or unwilling, to solve the problems of ordinary people --prominently their HR problems. When these elites have tried to enter into big alliances, they have usually entered into them from a position of force*, coldly, not necessarily stopping at ideological or ethical considerations (for sure not HR considerations). (Jose Donoso, Casa de Campo)

*: If you are holding the hammer, everything looks like a nail. (Abraham Manslow)


8. In one flavor or another, the liberal-democracy came to dominate the global North and from there it started to spread around the world. Yet political philosophies cannot live by their past glories: they must also promise a better future. And here, liberal democracy faces a looming challenge. The state can work harder for the citizens by recasting taxation, welfare, education and immigration. But what the economy must is to cut free from the growing power of corporate monopolies. In this, liberalism has lost sight of its own essential values. Liberalism has lost its arguments in geopolitics too.


9. Over the past few decades, liberals have become too comfortable with power. The ruling liberal elite must tell themselves that they preside over a healthy(?) meritocracy and recognize this has earned them privileges (sometimes extreme). Governing liberals have become so wrapped up in preserving the status-quo** that they have forgotten what their radicalism-from-the-extreme-center looks like (Alan Berg) as seen objectively from outside. Liberal technocrats contrive endless clever policy fixes, but they remain conspicuously aloof from the people they are supposed to be helping. This perpetuates the two class system just with other names, that is the doers and the done-to, the thinkers and the thought-for, the policymakers and the policy-takers (The Economist) --claim holders and duty bearers not even making it to the list…

**: …I hate that Roman Senator called Status-Quo!!


10. As a consequence, the ruling class lives in a bubble. They go to the same colleges, marry each other, live in the same streets and work in the same offices. (Sounds familiar?).


11. The true spirit of liberalism ought not to be self-preserving, but radical and disruptive. In that same vision, nowadays, liberals need to side with those fighting against the patricians. They must rediscover their belief in individual dignity and self-reliance --and curb their own privileges. (The Economist!!) Wow!


Waiting for the dream of ‘an outbreak of common sense’?


-The cruel arithmetic of power tells us that power makes itself systematically ‘hateable’. (Frederic Lordon)


12. When they govern, right wing parties exert unwarranted political, social and economic power.*** Left wing parties in government**** exert political power, but not social and economic power. Unfortunately, when they govern, the forces of the left tend to overestimate their power --as if political power by itself carries social and economic power.  Conversely, the same forces underestimate their power when they are in the opposition; they see the loss of political power as a total loss of power so that they take refuge in isolationist strategies of merely party survival. (B. de Sousa Santos)

***: Let us remember Lenin who said that “politics is concentrated economy”.

****: Beware: ‘The political’ is not only ‘the govenmental’ …and ‘the social’ is not only ‘that of the community’. (Maria Angelica Illanes)

13. Nowadays, the struggles in the realm of politics have become even stronger and wider than the traditional struggle between the Right and the Left. (Roberto Savio) Take, for example: Communist and socialist (Left) parties have traditionally adopted (at least in theory) an accusatory and a denunciatory dimension that has translated into their opposition to the liberal and/or conservative (Right) establishments that uphold capitalism. But they also have a proactive dimension, i.e., to substitute capitalism with socialism. This is not the case for the majority of populisms that do have an anti-establishment dimension, but lack a proactive dimension. (Vicente Navarro)


Bottom Line: In human rights work, we have to consider optimism as a purposeful act of political resistance (posthumously, Amit Sengupta)


14. Although this is not our main call to action, we consider disobedience is the weapon of the free***** (Louis Casado) and we do not shy away from what a graffiti in Santiago de Chile says, namely that, “if pushed to the extreme, our politics must take us to the streets”.

*****: Freedom and liberty (and the respect of HR I would add explicitly) do not consist in having a good master, but in not having one. (Cicero)


15. Is this a revolutionary stance in HR work? “What is a revolution if it throws around complicated words that the people cannot understand? What social change will that bring about? Ultimately, the important thing is to become part of those cleaning out the shit there is out there. Not to worry, with or without a revolution of the initiated, the people will continue to find their way to change what oppresses them”. (Haruki Mura Kami. Tokyo Blues, Norwegian Wood). You be the judge.


Claudio Schuftan, Ho Chi Minh City

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